Walking with Weeds in pictures and words – Plants for Life #4

It was the perfect sunny day for it. Until five minutes before we set out when it started raining. Thank goodness for bumping into Paul whilst I was doing a last minute reccy of the places and the plants we would be stopping at. Clouds were appearing. He would bring me an umbrella.

The weather didn’t seem to bother anyone though and at 2.30 over twenty of us put up brollies and pulled over hoods and set off around Bungay to see the wild plants pushing through everywhere from cracks in the pavement to churchyards to hidden alleyways behind the town centre.

And it wasn’t just the adults who wanted to come along. The children were fascinated by the plants and often knew them by name.

The intent behind the walk was to consider these uncultivated plants beyond their usual description as ‘weeds’ and look at their medicinal qualities and uses. And in line with the Spring season, we focused on the energy-moving, tonic, galvanising properties of the plants as well as how they clear and cleanse the system after the sluggishness of winter.

And there they all were in abundant supply: nourishing energisers and diuretics, dandelions and nettles. Lymphatic booster, cleanser and energiser, cleavers. Even mega Chinese herbal tonic and superfood Gojiberry, also known as Wolfberry and Duke of Argyll’s tea tree), was growing in abundance on Castle Meadow.

After the walk we returned to the library where Charlotte prepared everyone a Wild Green and great tasting spring tonic tea made from the leaves we’d collected. It included dandelion, nettles and cleavers with a sprig of peppermint and thyme from the library garden. Bungay Community Bees’ honey was an optional extra.

Next month we welcome Norfolk-based medical herbalist Julie Bruton-Seal and her husband Matthew Seal, co-authors of the best DIY handbook on making home remedies from wild plants I know, Hedgerow Medecine. Come along to Bungay Library at 3pm on Sunday 13th May, where Julie and Matthew will talk both about the book and the practice of Hedgerow Medicine. Don’t forget to visit the Garden Street Market beforehand and make it a day with plants.

Photos: pre-walk reccy checking out the dandelions and daisies (Charlotte Du Cann); Sustainable Bungay’s great new A board made by Roger proudly presents Walking with Weeds (Mark Watson); Walking up the road (me) and along the wall (Tristram); Grasping the nettle in Trinity churchyard; Wolfberry aka Goji (l) and Jack-by-the-Hedge aka Garlic Mustard (MW & Elinor McDowell); Preparing a Very Green and Delicious Tea (MW); Pouring and Drinking and Getting Galvanised for the spring season (EM)

A Lot of Give and Take on Saturday

For our fifth Give and Take Day, Sustainable Bungay returned to the Community Centre in Upper Olland Street, where between 10 and 1 on Saturday a steady two-way stream of clothes, furniture, childrens’ toys, kitchenware, tools and garden equipment came and went with the Givers and Takers (most people doubled as both).

The SB Give and Take crew did everything from pick ups and deliveries to press and publicity and the provision of soup, cakes and refreshments aswell as manning the door and the tables and being on hand to provide information. We also took the odd moment off to sit in the sun!

And this time there was more: a free bicycle maintenance workshop with Richard Simpson from Mutford in the next room. A display of the work of Emmaus in Ditchingham. For the hardworking organisers (all voluntary) a delicious lunch of spicy soup and focaccia, provided by Happy Mondays Community kitchen.

And we were all thrilled by the new A-boards made by Roger for use at all our events – both extremely useful and handsome. Thanks Roger.

Among the main aims in putting on the Give and Take Days is to reduce waste in general and prevent stuff going to landfill in particular. This time only a couple of pieces of furniture went to the dump. And to the landfill? Only the bag Eloise is holding in her hands.

All packed up with the room swept and ready to go. The Give and Take crew sans Daphne who was at the bike maintenance workshop until 4.

Photos by Mark Watson

Sowing Wildflower Seeds

Seeds, tea, cake and chat


Rose led Bungay Community Bees in a seed sowing session this week. It was great learning more about the plants we were hoping to raise and I really enjoyed hearing a boy’s comment about being in awe of tiny seeds being able to transform and grow into huge plants. Well, it is pretty amazing isn’t it.

Rose has written a piece sharing what we did:

About 10 enthusiastic members of Bungay Community Bees met last Sunday at our Flixton hive site, for an afternoon of sowing and transplanting trays of pollen and nectar rich garden and wildflowers for our own gardens, our hive sites  – and for distributing through our upcoming Beehive Day on July 15th. Some of the seeds sown were pollen and nectar rich mixes of both annual and perennial wild and garden flowers and some were just single plants – all known for being valuable pollen and nectar plants for bees as well as bumblebees, butterflies, moths and pollinating insects.

Among the seeds sown were a Bumblebee mix, Chris Skinner’s wildflower and annual pollen and nectar mix, an English Wildflower pollen and nectar mix, Calendula, Scabious, Cornflower, Mullein, Borage, Viper Bugloss, Anise Hyssop, Linaria, Sunflower, Cosmos, Phacelia, St John’s Wort, Teasel &. Marsh Marigold. We also transplanted several trays of Primroses and Great Willowherb for planting on the banks of the new big wildllife pond at our Flixton hive site.


Before the meeting we braved the biting wind and oncoming rain, to take a look at the wildlife pond and surrounding one acre perennial pollen and nectar wildflower meadow that we sowed last autumn. At the moment, what’s mostly visible are the non-invasive grass species that were sown with the wildflower mix, a few annual and thistle seedlings, and quite a lot of small cranesbill and speedwell plants. We are unlikely to see many of the perennial wildflowers until this autumn or next spring because they are very slow growing. We will be re-visiting the meadow throughout the year to chart and photograph it’s progress and to plant up the pond and pondside with native plants in the coming weeks. Unfortunately only one photo of the pond for now (and none of seedlings emerging) because it began raining as soon as I got my camera out!


Between now and Mid-May is an ideal time to sow pollen and nectar rich seeds in your garden or in trays of potting compost for transplanting into the garden later. It is generally easier to sow seeds sparingly in modular trays and transplant them later, especially when the weather is as cool as this and slugs and weed seedlings abound in our seedbeds! Any of the above seeds are great pollen and nectar plants – but also think of any single flowered poppies (Shirley Poppies, Californian poppies, single opium poppies) Angelica, Wild and Bronze fennel, Campanula (Canterbury Bells), Hollyhocks, Wallflowers, Cerinthe, Sweet William, Foxglove, Echinacea, Sweet Rocket, Flax, Limnanthes (poached egg flower), Love in a Mist, Evening Primrose, Sainfoin, Larkspur etc…

Most of these can be sown in trays and then grown outside or in a cold frame until big enough for transplanting. Those which will need a sunny windowsill or the protection of a greenhouse and polytunnel until frosts have passed are: Cosmos, Sunflower & Echinacea. Some sunflowers are hardy enough for outdoor sowing but in a cold wet year like this, will do better with some protection at first. (Even an upended 5 litre water bottle with it’s bottom cut off will do over a direct sowing). Remember when you do transplant your seedlings into your garden, to do so in warm, sunny spots and to aim for clumps or drifts of flowers, to make it easier and quicker for bees and insects to get the food they need. Bees and pollinating insects feed from plants in sunny places.

We are looking for extra bee-friendly plants for distributing to to other gardeners through our Beehive Day on July 15th, so if anyone wants to sow some of the above seeds, or has seedlings or rooted cuttings of bee-friendly plants or any spare herb plants, bee-friendly shrubs, single roses or perennials that they would like to pot up and grow on for us for our Beehive Day, we would be really grateful – Help us to get everyone’s gardens buzzing! Contact Rose: siriusowl@gmail.com, or Elinor: bees@sustainablebungay.com 01986 948154

Plants for Life and Medicine – Walking (around Town) with Weeds – Sunday 22 April, 2.30pm

For this year’s fourth Plants for Life event join us for a walk around central Bungay’s streets, alleyways, churchyards and meadows taking a different look at the plants we often call weeds.

In line with our Plant Medicine Bed at the library and the theme of plants as medicine this year we’ll explore some of the ways those ‘weeds’ might be good for our health.

We’ll depart from Bungay library in Wharton Street at 2.30pm prompt on Sunday 22 April and return to discuss what we’ve found after the walk. Everyone welcome. Led by Mark Watson.

Give and Take Day, Saturday 21st April 10am-1pm

Eloise Wilkinson writes:
It’s that time of year again when everything starts afresh. The green is returning to the landscape, seeds are being sown and stuff is being thrown out. And not to your local recycling centre and into landfill but to another Give and Take Day on Saturday 21st April 10am-1pm at the Community Centre in Bungay.

If you’ve got something in decent condition that you no longer need – whether it’s an item of furniture, clothes, kitchenware, garden tools, books or toys (but NO electricals please) – bring it along and we’ll find it a new home. You might just find a hidden gem and all for free. There can be great encounters with people, and the history of their unwanted objects can make for some interesting stories. You never know what’s going to come through the door. Anything that hasn’t found a new owner by the end of the day will be collected by the local Emmaus centre in Ditchingham.

You don’t have to bring something in order to take something away, everything must go!

With a hose pipe ban in operation across parts of the valley, many of us are religiously emptying our baths with a watering can. There is a simple satisfaction in not letting water go to waste. And it makes us more conscious of the circulation of resources into and out of our homes and lives. Do we use more than we need? Do we consider the lifecycle of each piece of rubbish that’s dropped into the black bin?

Much of what we throw away will sit in the ground for a very very long time. By becoming aware of this fact we can influence our daily actions and reduce our personal impact on the planet – and feel great about it! Whether it’s driving, eating, buying, or simply enjoying ourselves we can change our lives in so many ways. We can live more slowly, more softly, more simply or even go on a Rubbish diet. The Rubbish Diet was started in 2008 by Karen Cannard in Bury St. Edmunds who took up a week long challenge to seriously reduce the amount of rubbish going into her family’s “Black Bin”. It really took off and you can find out all about it at our next Green Drinks evening at the Green Dragon (Tues 17th April). You might even decide you want to give it a go.

So I challenge you now to have a jolly good rummage for all that stuff you really don’t need that’s cluttering up your space and bring it along to the Community Centre in Upper Olland Street, Bungay on Saturday 21st April 10am-1pm, where there will also be an opportunity for some free bicycle maintenance.

To arrange collections for large or heavy items contact Eloise 01986 788785 eloise.wilkinson@gmail.com

Cinema Paradiso – Film Nights with Sustainable Bungay – Friday 13th April at 7.30pm

This Friday Sustainable Bungay with Waveney Greenpeace are showing new documentary film, The Crisis of Civilisation. In this cross-post from a film week on This Low Carbon Life (Transition Norwich) Charlotte Du Cann chooses amongst the many documentaries that have shaped our thinking and ways of seeing the world. Films that have made us wake up, open our eyes, changed our point of reference.

Our experience of life depends on our perception of the world, and media of all kinds influence this, overtly or subtly. A film can restrict or corral our worldview, or expand it and show us new territory.

Most films offer escape and glamour, and dwell in realms that have little to do with our ordinary lives. But some bring reality home. Make us look at things we would rather not look at, the places we don’t normally see. The oil fields in the Ecuadorian rainforest in Joe Berlingers’ Crude. Food factories, bullied farmers, tar sands, strip mining, melting glaciers. The consequences of our industrialised culture.

Transition often starts off in small grassroots cinemas, in halls and studios, with films that look at peak oil and climate change, ranging from the confrontative (Gasland, The Age of Stupid) to the upbeat (Power of Community). On Thursday Mike Grenville, who runs a Transition film programme in Forest Row, Sussex, will be sharing his tips about showing films, as well as his fave docs. Because this is not just about the documentaries, it’s also about the set and setting in which you see them. Watching Life at the End of Empire would have really been no fun without the feeling I was surrounded by people who were ready to discuss its issues afterwards. Or watching the first Transition movie outside the celebratory context of the TN Birthday Party. They would have made little sense.

So the kind of films we will be looking are not entertainments: they are tools for discussion, sparks that light the fire.

Where do we go to find these films? In Norwich, there are regular documentary screenings at Cinema City, ranging this month from Patience (after Sebald), a photo essay on walking, memory and history, to a World Without Water (with panel discussion afterwards). There is also the monthly film night at the Quaker Meeting House every third Friday. Run as a “busy activist’s alternative to a book club” alongside FoodCycle, the nights began in 2011 with Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine and will soon be showing, The Crisis of Civilisation, our Saturday story.

What About Me?
But the film I am choosing today swerves away from these attentions. I saw it at our Sustainable Bungay/Waveney Greenpeace film night last week in Tom Abbott’s barn in the Saints. It’s not about peak oil, or climate change, or digging potatoes. It does not examine the external factors that shape us – the industrial military complex, the domination of the consumer culture – and discuss ways we can mitigate them. It looks at the internal drivers, at our natures that strive for freedom, our bodies and imaginations that reflect the awesome forces of nature and the cosmos. What it means to be human here and now and connected.

Maybe it’s because I don’t travel anymore, or own a television, an I-pod or a radio, that the film, unscripted, shot on video, full of music and dance, made such a bright impression. Maybe it’s because I am surrounded by the tweedy countryside of England, its dun fields, and sober raincoats, all its quiet rhythms, that the colours of Africa and the sharp wit of city rappers and foxy old gurus startled me. I live on plain fare, and so the film appeared in the barn like a gorgeous feast. Oh, brave new world that has such people in it!

However it brought something else home. We live in a civilisation that runs along a vertical axis between mind and body – our world is masterminded by the Empire that fixes its attention on the control and possession of the earth’s physical assets. But this is not the whole story of life. This film was unequivocally framed along the horizontal axis, the dynamic between heart and spirit. The struggles for life (in spite of Empire and its false desires and self-absorbtion) are also a collective, multi-layered shout for freedom, for creative expression, for the mysterious and alchemical forces that run through us, the meaning of our being here together, billions of us at this point in time.

Shot on eight sequences in over 50 locations (which can be viewed seperately) by Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman, the film looks at different aspects of human life from the trauma of childhood to the acquiescence of old age. It is a vibrant, noisy, sassy, colourful mix, interweaving American philosophers, Bedouin musicians, Chinese rappers, Gabonese Pygmies and Tuvan Throat singers, shot on rooftops, balconies, in streets and villages. It’s a long way from the monoculture of the Mall.

In Transition we are as much subject to living in a trapping world of things, of sterile planning, funding, separation and control as anyone else in this culture. To bring the horizontal axis into all we do, to liberate music and creativity from its role as entertainment and escape, and instead see it as central to our lives, is the key to real change. The fact is as people, whatever land or nation we come from, we meet in the moving rhythms and harmonies of the heart. We are on earth together, creating a new narrative. In our minds we are alone and stuck in perpetual war and slavery.

Normally after the films we discuss how the subjects bear on our lives in Transition – The History of Oil, Inuit Wisdom and Climate Change – this time we laughed, got up and shimmied.

Gotta loosen up, gotta dance, gotta get free.

Stills: Singer in What About Me?; growers from Power of Community; East Anglian seaboard from Patience; women in What About Me?; dancing at film night, The Saints.

For more info on Sustainable Bungay film night contact Eloise Wilkinson eloisewilkinson@gmail.com. Films night is at Bacon’s Farm, St Michael South Elmham, 7.30pm. Donations.